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Ox Ridge looks back, and forward

Published 10:17 am, Tuesday, June 19, 2012

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  • Catherine Wachtell competes in the Meter 20 Unrestricted competition during the 82nd Annual Ox Ridge Hunt Club Charity Horse Show.  June 14, 2012, Darien, Conn. Photo: Jeanna Petersen Shepard
    Catherine Wachtell competes in the Meter 20 Unrestricted competition during the 82nd Annual Ox Ridge Hunt Club Charity Horse Show. June 14, 2012, Darien, Conn. Photo: Jeanna Petersen Shepard

 

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The 82nd annual Ox Ridge Charity Horse Show, which concluded Sunday, drew 140 more horses than last year. Many of those in attendance say the horses are treated as well as, and sometimes better than, the people who ride them.

"Horses can have acupuncture, get massages, have physical therapists, pools to tone their muscles, and fake tails -- like hair extensions -- braided into their tails to make them look fuller," said Libby Smith, a spectator and former competitor.

Flavia Callari, an Ox Ridge board member and sponsor, acknowledged that the sport has become more expensive as technology has changed to keep the horses healthy and competitive.

"My horse has a chiropractor; it's the same practice as my own chiropractor," she said.

Callari said the Ox Ridge Hunt Club has a responsibility to keep up tradition and remain relevant and competitive in the small world of horseback riding. Doing so requires maintaining the grounds and raising money for prizes.

"The footing gets the big riders in here and coming back each year. Like a good restaurant needs good food and service, we need good footing. We have to roll and water and irrigate the grass material and maintain the sand to prevent injuries to the horses" Callari said.

Last year, the club renovated a piece of land called "the landing strip" after 15 years of fundraising.

The Ox Ridge Hunt Club opened its doors in 1914, and hosted its first Charity Horse Show in 1926. It began with fox hunting and polo matches, and now features the more modern hunter, jumper and equitation events.

Through decades of change, the Ox Ridge show has maintained its prestige, drawing generations of families to compete.

Patricia Andrews of Darien, a former rider, competed through the 1930s and '40s. She has been coming back for decades to watch her daughter and others.

"I think this place is wonderful now -- not the same as it used to be. So many more people and competitors are here now and everyone is just so happy, it's wonderful," Andrews said

As it changes, however, organizers are sensitive to acknowledging that the event's biggest selling point may be its own history.

"We don't want to lose sight of these old venues and shows," Callari said, "There is a ton of history here. Everyone has a story about Ox Ridge."